Separation in Singapore Via Deed of Separation and More

Last updated on March 17, 2022

A couple dragging their half of the sawn house.

In Singapore, separation is a popular solution for couples trapped in troubled marriages. Spouses may enter into a separation as and when they want because the laws regulating spousal relationship do not require cohabitation.

The sole ground for divorce is irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, and there are 4 legally defined ways of proving this irretrievable breakdown: adultery, desertion, unreasonable behaviour, or separation for a period of time. Separation is often the preferred option when neither party is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage.

There are 3 main ways for spouses to bring about separation:

  1. Informally, without a written document;
  2. With a deed of separation; and
  3. With a judgment of judicial separation.

Informal Separation

Couples are free to separate informally by living apart any time they wish to do so. However, in order for separation to count as a valid ground for divorce, the separation must be valid. Separations may be valid if either or both parties intend for it to lead to divorce. With an informal separation, physical separation is usually required.

Physical separation may be present even if the couples live under one roof, provided that there is a clear disruption of marital or sexual relations. Also, the parties must generally not have performed other typical spousal duties, such as cooking or cleaning for each other.

Separation must also be by the couple’s choice, and not merely a matter of necessity (e.g. if a husband works abroad for a year, that may not count as a valid period of separation).

Deed of Separation

In Singapore, a Deed of Separation is a formal, legally binding document signed by a married couple that contains the terms of their arrangement to live separately. A deed of separation is also known as a separation deed.

There are two main categories of clauses in a Deed of Separation:

  1. Terms relating to the separation itself. This includes the date when the parties separated, the living arrangements of both parties, and the agreement that both parties will live separately from each other.
  2. Terms on financial arrangements between the spouses and other terms. This has to be mutually agreed upon. Examples of this would be whether there should be any division of matrimonial assets (who gets the car), maintenance terms concerning the children’s living arrangements (who gets to care for the child, and how much access the other spouse gets).

In this sense, a deed of separation is not too different from a divorce agreement. A lawyer is usually hired to draft the deed of separation, although an oral agreement or a written document composed by the couple may still hold water as a separation agreement.

It should be noted that a Deed of Separation can be invoked only with both spouses’ consent, and need not be registered with any government department or court. However, the Family Justice Courts can set aside terms of the Deed of Separation that it considers to be unfair or improper. That said, this will not apply where the court has officially sanctioned the Deed of Separation.

While signing the Deed of Separation means that both parties will live apart, but it does not change the legal state of their marriage – both parties are still considered legally married. For either party to remarry, a divorce is necessary. Nonetheless, a Deed of Separation is useful as a precursor to divorce, in the sense that it prepares both parties for the realities of divorce. It is also helpful for spouses who have hope of reconciling in the future and don’t want to divorce just yet.

Judicial Separation

Couples may also file for a court order for judicial separation, pursuant to section 101(1) of the Women’s Charter. This course of action may be more onerous, because of the need to prove the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage on the grounds of adultery, unreasonable behaviour, or desertion.

However, you might want to file for judicial separation if you believe your spouse will not comply with the terms of a deed of separation. This is because failure to comply with a court order (for judicial separation in this case) can constitute an offence.

For more information, read our other article on judicial separation in Singapore.

Commission of Marital Rape Even During Separation

By force of section 375(4) of the Penal Code, a husband can be found guilty of raping his wife if the act of penetration was done without her consent. It does not matter whether the couple were living together or separately at this time, or whether they were still married.

The penalties for marital rape in Singapore are a jail term of up to 20 years, and either a fine or caning.

Similarly, a woman can be found guilty of sexually assaulting her husband under section 376 of the Penal Code if she sexually penetrates him (such as through using an object, or causes him to sexually penetrate her, without his consent. The maximum penalties are also a jail term of up to 20 years, and either a fine or caning.

Outcome of Separation

The separation can end in either reconciliation or divorce. The eligibility conditions for divorce continue to apply if at least one spouse eventually decides to file for divorce. 3 years of separation is required for divorce with both parties’ consent, while 4 years of separation is needed for divorce without consent.

Should you require any guidance on the costs of hiring a divorce lawyer, please refer to our Divorce Fee Guide.

Couples may also wish to seek marriage counselling before they conclude on divorce.

Before getting a divorce
  1. Drafting a Deed of Separation in Singapore (Instead of Divorcing)
  2. Alternatives to Divorce in Singapore: A Practical Guide
  3. Process for Getting Divorced in Singapore (With Diagram)
  4. What are the Legal Grounds for Getting a Divorce?
  5. 3 Finance Questions To Ask Before a Divorce
  6. Practical Preparations for a Divorce
  7. How to Divorce Within 3 Years of Marriage in Singapore
  8. Getting Divorced: Documents and Evidence to Prepare
  9. Getting a Divorce Due to “Irreconcilable Differences” in Singapore
  10. Online Divorce in Singapore: How It Works and Should You Get One?
  11. How Can I Divorce Overseas After Marrying in Singapore?
Divorce Fees
  1. Comprehensive Guide to Divorce Fees in Singapore
Getting a Divorce Lawyer
  1. 7 Experienced Female Divorce Lawyers in Singapore (2022)
  2. Can a Divorcing Couple Use the Same Lawyer? Pros and Cons
  3. 7 Best Divorce and Family Lawyers in Singapore (2022)
  4. The Complete Guide to Choosing a Good Divorce Lawyer in Singapore
  5. Don’t Just Go for the Cheapest Divorce Lawyer in Singapore
  6. Find Highly Rated Divorce Lawyers in Singapore
  7. Child Custody Lawyers in Singapore: Do I Need One?
Proving Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage
  1. How to Prove Adultery for Divorce Purposes in Singapore
  2. Getting a Divorce: How to Prove Desertion
  3. Getting a Divorce by Mutual Agreement in Singapore
  4. How to Prove Unreasonable Behaviour in a Singapore Divorce
  5. How to Prove Separation for a Singapore Divorce
Application for Divorce Part I: Dissolution of Marriage
  1. Your Spouse Doesn't Want to Divorce: What to Do
  2. Procedure for Dissolution of Marriage
  3. Simplified Uncontested Divorce vs Contested Divorce in Singapore
  4. Mandatory Parenting Programme Guide for Divorcing Parents
  5. Divorce Mediation in Singapore
  6. Divorce Application: What to Do If Your Spouse Cannot be Found
Application for Divorce Part 2: Ancillary Matters (Maintenance, Assets, Custody)
  1. Contempt of Court in Divorce: When You Can be Punished
  2. Guide to Co-Parenting for Divorcing Parents in Singapore
  3. Procedure for Ancillary Matters
  4. Maintenance of Spouse in a Singapore Divorce
  5. Filling in a Matrimonial Property Plan for a Singapore Divorce
  6. Dividing Matrimonial Assets in a Singapore Divorce
  7. What Happens to Your HDB Flat after Divorce?
  8. What Happens to Gifts Between Spouses During a Divorce?
  9. What Happens to Property and Assets Located Overseas Upon a Divorce in Singapore?
  10. Child Custody, Care and Control & Access: Singapore Guide
  11. Getting Divorced: Child Maintenance in Singapore
  12. Singapore Divorcee's Guide to Relocating Your Child Overseas
Post-Divorce
  1. How to Vary a Child Custody Order in Singapore
  2. How to Appeal Your Divorce Case in Singapore
  3. Divorce Certs in Singapore: How to Get a Copy and Other FAQs
  4. Transfer of Matrimonial Home to Ex-Spouse After Divorce
  5. Can Divorcees Buy or Rent HDB Flats, and How?
  6. What to Do If Your Ex-Spouse Does Not Provide Maintenance
  7. How to Vary a Maintenance Order After a Singapore Divorce
  8. What to Do If Your Ex-Spouse Denies You Access to Your Child
  9. Division of CPF Assets (Monies, House, Investments) After a Divorce
Expatriate Divorce
  1. Divorce for British Expats: Spousal Maintenance Under the Law of England and Wales
  2. Settling Ancillary Matters in Singapore After Foreign Divorce
  3. Immigration Issues for Divorcing Expatriates
  4. Can Foreigners Divorce in Singapore?
  5. Expat or Foreigner Divorce in Singapore: 10 Legal Issues to Consider
  6. Hague Convention: Overseas Child Abduction in Singapore Divorce
  7. Case Study: Cross-Border Child Custody and the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction
  8. Can British Expats in Singapore Choose to Divorce in England?
  9. Divorce for British Expats: Approach to Matrimonial and Non-Matrimonial Assets in England vs Singapore
  10. Divorce for British Expats: How the English Courts Deal with Financial Matters
Muslim or Syariah Divorce
  1. Fasakh in a Muslim Divorce in Singapore: Grounds & Process
  2. Divorce by Cerai Taklik: Guide for Muslim Wives in Singapore
  3. Muslim Divorce in Singapore
  4. Talak in a Muslim Divorce in Singapore (and Its Effects)
  5. Guide to Divorcing by Khuluk for Muslim Wives in Singapore
  6. Applying for Nafkah Idaah and Mutaah in a Muslim Divorce in Singapore
Other divorce matters
  1. Guide to Personal Protection Orders in Singapore
  2. Case Study - Love conquers All: The Divorce That Didn’t Happen
Annulment
  1. Annulling a Singapore Marriage: Requirements and Process
  2. What Happens to Your HDB Flat After an Annulment?
Separation
  1. Separation in Singapore Via Deed of Separation and More
  2. Judicial or Legal Separation in Singapore: When and How to File
Prenuptial and Post-Nuptial Agreements
  1. Prenuptial Agreements in Singapore
  2. Should You Make a Post-Nuptial Agreement in Singapore?